Yuki Togashi’s Week at Summer League

Image by Ignacio Palomo Duarte via Flickr

Image by Ignacio Palomo Duarte via Flickr

It’s a bit surprising, given the way Yuki Togashi himself functions on the court, but his favorite player is Chris Paul. Dig a bit deeper, though, and it makes perfect sense. Togashi’s game rivals that of Nate Robinson, so it makes sense that his favorite parts of Paul are the one-on-one moves, the creativity off the dribble, and the ferocity as a tiny giant amongst the trees.

Without so much as a word in his time as nominal floor leader, Togashi owns the crowd with quick slashes and pull-up jumpers from any angle, anywhere.

“We play the same style in Japan. A lot of pick-and-rolls,” Togashi said when asked about the adjustments he had to make.

There was no wasted emotion on his face throughout the week, be it in reaction to a missed jumper, turnover, or fastbreak foul. There’s a certain type of composure that comes with becoming a player many don’t expect to see, or play against, especially in this setting. I don’t even think Togashi uttered a word, or nary a hand motion, the entire game. He worked his pick-and-roll game and his teammates worked his. That’s just how Summer League works. There’s no animosity there, just a level of development and chemistry every team must acquiesce to.

But his dream is to play in the NBA. Now going back to train for the Japanese National Team, Togashi understands there’s still a lot of ways he can handle everything that came flying at him the moment the Dallas Mavericks surprisingly tabbed him on the Summer League roster.

When asked about how he felt about the crowd reaction relative to Jeremy Lin’s during Togashi’s 11-points-in-12-minutes surge: “I know Jeremy Lin. I did not expect this crowd. I was not ready. I’m Asian and I’m short. That’s why people go crazy. Sometimes it is a little too much.”

Spoken in frailed tones, 20-year old Togashi harped on his obsession not just with playing in the NBA, but even in the D-League. Growing up in Japan, he moved to the Americas to play at the same high school as Kevin Durant. Without any D-1 scholarship offers, Togashi has played in Japan in the past year-plus and averaged nearly 16 points and eight assists per game.

With Togashi’s English still improving, there’s a silent quake of confidence if you’re into sensing such things. But only moments before, he answered a Japanese reporter’s question with the aplomb and energy of a bubbling rookie. Togashi speaks a lot about adjusting, about making the league, and not much about himself as a person. That’s the way he likes it.

“Yuki! We’ll hold the bus for you. Take your time, man!” a Dallas Mavericks player shouted before stepping into the elevator. It was a roller coaster, sometimes-great, sometimes-weird Summer League week for Yuki Togashi. Now it was time to keep chasing that dream.

Andy Liu